3 Top Tips for a Chilled Out Winter with A New Baby!

90338.jpgThis time five years ago, I was heavily pregnant with the Bean – wait, what? Was that really five whole years ago? Where has the time gone?! Three years before that, hubby and I moved 220 miles when I was 26 weeks pregnant. I really don’t recommend doing that! It’s been a few years since I had a tiny baby, but I remember it pretty clearly and have definitely learned a lot since then. You find that parenting is rather like being on a swing. It takes a bit of effort to get going and coordinated, but once you’re in the swing of it, you forget the effort it took and it becomes second nature. I hope that some of these tips from a wise old bird will help a few new parents this winter.

1Layer up! Obvious really, but this is my number one top tip. I didn’t really get it the first time around. I kept wearing the types of clothes I had worn pre-baby and was forever the wrong temperature! Nursing burns serious calories (so go ahead and let yourself have a slice of that home made cake at baby group), and in your hormonal post-partum state, you may get hot flushes. You’ll want to wrap up against the cold, but then when you arrive at your destination, be prepared to shed layers to be comfortable.

Same goes for baby, by the way! Several layers is better than one thick snowsuit, especially if baby is going to be in a car seat or be worn in a carrier (more on that in a mo). It’s super important not to put baby in anything too thick when they are in their five-point harness car seat, as if the worst should happen and you are in a collision, that padding can prevent the straps being tight enough to keep baby safely in their car seat.

When the Bean was little, I spent the extra cash on some nursing tops, rather than making do with what I had. I highly recommend Boob for fantastic tops for this time in your life. I still wear my hooded jumper from time to time. You can add layers safe in the knowledge that you can easily get to your breast to feed baby, without the discomfort of bunching up excess fabric or getting a chill from having your side/belly/chest uncovered.

Invest2 in a good carrier…. or six! I know not all parents will agree on this one, and each to their own, but I find a pram or buggy totally impractical in winter. I’ve never figured out how the parent holds an umbrella while pushing a pram, and the thought of slipping on ice and a pram rolling away down the steep hill that we live on is unthinkable! The Munchkin was in a pram a fair bit when he was little, but it was spring-summer and I hadn’t yet really discovered babywearing properly. We did have a sling, but I didn’t get on with it. It took me a while to get to a sling library and find a better carrier. He was ten months before we ditched the pram and started wearing him exclusively.12043191_1060903917277302_6469733779818377733_n

The Bean has only ever been in a buggy when we were on holiday in Florida and it was too hot to wear him. At home, I’ve never felt the need to use one with him. I got seriously into babywearing after he was born, and invested in several fantastic wraps, a ring sling, and a gorgeous custom made, Dr Seuss-themed, half-buckle mei tai by Madame GooGoo! I was wearing this in London one day, when a woman approached me from behind and told me she had seen pictures of my carrier online (sling makers often share photos of their finished products before shipping them) and long been an admirer of it, she was so surprised to see it in person. The sling world is like that, very friendly and approachable. Carriers also retain their value quite well, so can be sold on when they are no longer in use. I had to sell this carrier on last year. I often wonder where it is now and if it is still getting lots of use.

Babywearing in winter is a great way to keep each other warm and safe. Light layers, as mentioned above, are best, to avoid over-heating. I absolutely loved putting my babies in leg warmers, as in the picture above, a great compliment to babywearing and cloth nappies.

Most high street carriers are unsuitable for babywearing safely. They don’t allow for parents to follow the “TICKS” guidelines, and forward facing positions place stress on the wrong parts of a baby; chiefly their spine and crotch (these are jokingly referred to as “crotch-danglers” in the babywearing community). So, if you are going to wear your baby, make sure that your carrier enables you to wear baby in the correct position (Tight against your body, In sight at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep the chin off the chest, and Supported back – upright, facing you,. These are the T.I.C.K.S.). Back carries are great when babies get a bit older, but newborns are best worn on the front so that the TICKS can be observed.

There is a wealth of detailed information out there for those wanting to wear their babies, so I urge you to take a good look around the net, find a local sling library, and get support. There are loads of groups on Facebook dedicated to this!

3Don’t over-do things! If you are just about to have a baby, or have recently given birth, for goodness sake, don’t try to take on too much this festive season! It’s not worth it. Take it easy. Nest, or snuggle into your “babymoon” and enjoy your new baby. Get help in for Christmas, from family or friends. Don’t feel you have to cook a huge feast for all of your extended family. Traditions are great, but they can wait until next year if they involve a lot of effort. Let yourself have this pause from the hectic hustle and bustle of the season, your body will thank you. Stock up the freezer with easy-to-heat meals; get shopping delivered instead of traipsing around a supermarket with a baby; say no to the invitations that you know you need to skip this year; keep it simple. I had the Bean at the end of January, so Christmas 5 years ago was a fairly low-key affair. I was waddling everywhere and unable to sleep comfortably due to my huge bump.

Nursing a newborn means resting and nourishing your body, rushing about trying to fit in too much won’t do either of you any good. If you have commitments that can’t be skipped or delegated, then find ways to manage them. You might have a school run to do with an older child, or a relative to care for. Of course you need to do these things, but try to have realistic expectations of yourself.

I hope some of this is helpful. If you have any more tips for the season, do please share them in the comments below. I love to hear from readers!


Breastfed Babies are “More challenging”?

Unless you live under a rock, it would have been hard to miss the news today…. breastfed babies cry more than bottle fed babies… they have “more challenging temperaments”. Really? Where are these headlines coming from?

A recent piece of research from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit has found that breastfed babies are perceived to be more “irritable” or “challenging” than their formula fed peers, by their parents. The researchers have been quick to state that this is actually normal, that babies cry for reasons other than hunger, that formula fed babies are essentially overfed (dare I say, sedated?) and that parents should adjust their expectations of normal infant behaviour, doing so may result in more mums breastfeeding for longer.

The “by their parents” bit highlighted above is the single most important aspect of this research. This was not a robust scientific study, it was a survey of just 316 parents, so for starters it isn’t a large enough study to be statistically relevant. Secondly, parents are not impartial, we all love our babies very much, but our perspective is coloured by that. It is also coloured by our expectations and a whole myriad of feelings.

Most mums in the UK initiate breastfeeding, but by four months only 7% of UK infants are exclusively breastfed. One of the often sited reasons mums give for stopping breastfeeding, or introducing some formula feeds (mixed feeding), is that breast milk alone didn’t satisfy their babies. There are various reasons that parents might believe this, despite evidence to the contrary, one of which may be cultural expectations of infant behaviour. This is what the conclusions of this study are getting at. Formula feeding has become so common in our society, along with detached parenting techniques, that our perceptions of how babies should behave are completely warped. We think they should sleep through the night, feed every four hours, be content to be left alone, or with people other than their mothers for extended periods of time and basically be seen and not heard.

How many well-meaning friends and relatives suggest a bottle in order to settle a restless baby? How little faith in their own bodies do many mothers have?

Formula fed babies may go longer between feeds (because formula is harder to digest and therefore artificially fills babies up for longer), add dummies and controlled crying into the mix and you have very young babies who are essentially trained not to bother crying for their mothers. Obviously there are many parents who formula feed on demand, rather than to a schedule, and who are very attached to their babies, I’m simply intending to highlight other variables that may be contributing factors to the behaviour reported by the parents in this survey.

Also, if as a culture we expect formula fed babies to be more satisfied than breastfed ones, and if we have huge numbers of mothers who ceased exclusive breastfeeding for the very reason that they wanted their babies to be more satisfied, then when we ask them a series of questions how likely is it that they will give the answers they expect to be giving? How many mums who have niggling regrets about introducing formula might defend their decision by stating that their baby is perfectly content, thank you very much?

I don’t mean to say that the respondents to this survey consciously lied, but their answers are very likely to be the product of their experiences and expectations.

The survey was also conducted among parents of three month old babies. I wonder how many of the breastfeeding mums were in the midst of growth spurts and teething, approaching the four month sleep regression and generally feeling the effects of life with a tiny baby who is so reliant on their mother alone to fulfil their dietary needs, with very little support from their family or peers. Their feelings almost certainly coloured their responses too.

The discussions rampaging around the internet today demonstrate clearly the number of breastfeeding mothers who feel that their babies were perfectly content and hardly ever cried because they were able to meet their needs quickly, both nutritional and comfort needs, with the breast. These mums, in the circles I tend to move in, are well supported, determined, knowledgeable and tend to follow attached parenting ideals. They are not “typical” mums in our society, but they demonstrate, again, another set of variables that might suggest that breastfeeding could be a heck of a lot easier than the respondents of this survey have found it.

As with all scientific research, we also have to consider who has conducted it and any other interests they may have. I haven’t been able to substantiate this, but one comment on a Facebook thread that I saw this morning, suggested that this piece of research was funded by a board of over 20 interested parties, some of whom, you can bet, have financial interests in the formula and baby food industry. If this is true then we do need to take a very deep breath before taking the conclusions of the study seriously, despite the insistence of the researchers that this evidence is good news for breastfeeding.

I think we need to take this research with a rather large pinch of salt.